Tech Tip: Firewalls Smarter Than Routers


Routers and firewalls can be confusing. While they both serve the same purpose of distributing Internet to devices on the network, they are used for different purposes. The type of router you would purchase at a big-box store is designed to serve the needs of home, not of business. For most parents at home, a router is fine. It’s more important to have an Xbox with a great WiFi signal so your kids can play their games, than it is to be able to, say, deny all Internet access from North Korea.

Unlike a router, however, a firewall is intelligent. You typically pay a subscription fee because the firewall is constantly updating itself to protect against the newest cyber-attacks. A firewall actually looks at all Internet traffic passing through it to make sure of three things: 1) that it’s from a legitimate source; 2) that it’s not a virus; and, 3) that it was requested from a computer inside. Firewalls also allow us to block access totally from countries known for launching cyber-attacks. A good firewall can let you know as well what your staff has been up to – who’s that looking on careerbuilder.com for five hours?

The firewall you need truly is the gatekeeper between your business and the rest of the world – and you want a strongly armed guard, not a non-intelligent robot. If you can afford to invest in one smart thing for your business, get a good firewall!

Of course, there is no rule that a firewall is just for business – we sell them for use in the homes of lots of CEOs, CIOs and other professionals. If you want to control the content home users can access on the Internet, or if you want to see what the people in the house have been doing online, a firewall may work for you.

So, don’t cheap out and purchase just a router from a big-box store to serve as your business’s gateway to the Internet and, if necessary, consider installing a firewall at home.

Alan Edwards, CISM, is chief information officer at Computerware, Inc., in Vienna, Virginia.

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